Old Wisdom and New Partnerships

In Southern Baptist life, a long-held principle of cooperation has advanced the cause of missions and ministry for over 150 years: we can accomplish more together than we can alone. Although this principle most often finds its application in the Cooperative Program discussion, it is true outside of it as well. First, it recognizes one church or institution doesn’t have the resources (finances, time, talent, connections, etc.) to meet every need adequately. It recognizes that one church or institution trying to do too many things at once won’t do all of them well. Finally, it recognizes that the church or institution acknowledges its limitations and is willing to say, “We can’t, but we can help.” I believe in partnerships, for they are biblical and wise. As a Southern Baptist church, we are ministry partners, beginning at our local association and as a national convention of churches supporting missionaries, seminaries, church planters, and many other ministries through our unified giving, bound together by an agreed-upon doctrinal statement of faith. I want to share two new partnerships our church – First Baptist Church, Perry, Florida, has entered into recently that I am excited about. 

Iglesia Bautista Piedra Angular. For years, we have been praying for a church plant among the Hispanic community in Perry. Within the past year, a husband and wife stepped forward at Midway Baptist Church, believing God had called them to plant a church in this community – an answer to the prayers of many people. We knew that we didn’t have what was needed to plant this church. Instead of trying to do something we couldn’t and possibly harming future efforts, First Baptist agreed to partner with them in their work. Our partnership involves prayer, financial, and other material support (training, meeting space, etc.) We couldn’t do this alone, but we can help this church reach the segment of the community the Lord has called them to reach. Together we will do more. 

North Florida Pregnancy Care Center. The overturning of Roe v Wade was an answer to prayer. The church rejoiced, rightfully so. However, we knew the church would need to engage further with those pro-life ministries already serving women at the point of life-altering decisions and would, prayerfully, have the opportunity to help more women. So our Missions Team began to pray about how we would involve ourselves in this work. We contacted our closest faith-based pregnancy care center and discussed their ministry and what a partnership would look like. At that point, Perry was not served by any pregnancy or crisis care center. We believed this was the right choice after listening to the staff and their vision for helping women and families. But, again, First Baptist didn’t have what was needed to start this ministry on our own. So, we agreed to partner with them in their work. Our partnership involves financial support and space one day a week every month for the center to park their mobile pregnancy care center with ultrasound capability at our campus for walk-up clients. This partnership brings the presence of a pregnancy care center to our county. 

My Response to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Sexual Abuse Task Force Report

FBC family,

I want to address a serious matter within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). 

The 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville called for the creation of an independent task force to examine allegations of sexual abuse reports within SBC churches. As a result, a 288-page report was released on May 22nd. You can review this report for yourself at sataskforce.net. 

To ensure transparency in this process, the trustees of the Executive Committee, after some hesitation and multiple votes, finally waived attorney-client privilege and fully funded the investigation conducted by Guidepost Solutions. As a result, this report addresses the handling of sexual abuse cases between 2000-2021 within the SBC and the involvement of the Executive Committee. The SBC website defines the Executive Committee as follows:

“The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention is comprised of 86 representatives chosen from qualified states and regions and acts on behalf of the Convention between sessions. Although the Executive Committee does not control or direct the activities of Convention agencies, it reviews their financial statements and recommends the Convention’s annual operating budget. In addition, it receives and distributes the monies Southern Baptists give in support of denominational ministries, acts as the recipient and trust agency for all Convention properties, and provides public relations and news services.”

SBC website – http://www.sbc.net

The report reveals allegations of sexual abuse, consistent concealment of abuse, mistreatment of victims, instances of intimidation of victims, witnesses, and advocates, and resistance and opposition to sexual abuse reform initiatives. The level of corruption, concealment, and sinful, evil, and abusive actions of a small but influential group of people associated with the Executive Committee and the SBC, in general, is shocking and repulsive. 

I have read Guidepost’s report in its entirety. It is difficult and painful to read, for it reveals that survivors of sexual abuse were hurt and unloved. To add insult to their injury, the pain endured by the abuse survivors was worsened by our leadership. Victims were ignored or dismissed to avoid legal risk to the Convention or internal conflict. In at least one of the many documented cases, an accuser’s words were changed, sexual assault was then referred to as an affair, and the abuser was said to have been guilty of an adulterous relationship. In another case, a former Executive Committee Vice President called the movement to address sexual abuse in the SBC “a satanic scheme to completely distract us from evangelism.” Still, another case documents an Executive Committee Chairman helping a pastor who was a college friend accused of an inappropriate relationship with a single mother he was counseling. The chairman helped the pastor draft an apology letter to the congregation. When contacted to share their feelings of intimidation during the church’s investigative process, one witness was told by the chairman’s assistant that he (EC Chairman) planned to help the pastor, not the church. Serious wrongs have been perpetrated against abuse survivors. These wrongs should drive every Southern Baptist church to grieve and seek reform and transparency from its leadership. 

I have met with our deacons and shared the contents of this report, as well as my thoughts and feelings. Together we offer the following statements:

  1. We believe a spirit of repentance needs to fall upon our SBC, and we commit to pray for such a spirit. 
  2. We commit to pray for and act on behalf of sexual abuse survivors. 
  3. We defend the right of an abuse survivor to have their story told without the threat of reprisal, intimidation, embarrassment, or concealment. 
  4. We believe a lack of transparency from our leadership has led to the present crisis. Transparency is non-negotiable. 
  5. We commit to putting policies and practices in place to allow abuse survivors to tell their stories and prevent instances of sexual abuse in the future. 

The Southern Baptist Convention will meet for its Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California, June 14th-15th, 2022. This report is sure to be the on the hearts and minds of all the messengers attending. The Executive Committee is promising change, and recommendations are already being discussed. We should all pray for the Lord to move on the hearts of our leadership with a spirit of repentance and revival. We should pray for a renewed commitment to and focus on gospel advancement. So, for now, we move forward. Our agencies for missionary sending and mobilization (NAMB and IMB) are top-notch. Our seminaries that are training our future church leaders are excellent. We have a strong, local connection to our state convention. 

In closing, we must not allow a few power-hungry, self-serving, and misguided people to determine the direction of the SBC. We are better than this. I believe the leadership of the SBC is filled with people who love Jesus Christ. We should be careful not to condemn the entire Executive Committee of the SBC as being culpable in the small group’s actions outlined in the Guidepost’s report over the past twenty years. On the contrary, the Executive Committee is working under challenging circumstances and scrutiny to get things right and do right by abuse survivors. They deserve our prayers and support.

You should know that more stories will likely come out over the next few months. Unfortunately, things may get worse before they get better. Some will take this opportunity to attack, smear, and mischaracterize the church and the work of the gospel. Some of you may be wondering how this could have happened. Some may wonder how they can remain Southern Baptists in light of these shocking revelations. If you have questions about anything you read or see in the news, please reach out to me, and I’ll be happy to sit down with you and answer your questions. 

A hotline has been established for those who need to report sexual abuse within Southern Baptist churches. Guidepost, the authors of the report mentioned above, operates this hotline, and all information is kept in confidence. The hotline number is 202-864-5578. If you are the victim of sexual abuse and are able, don’t hesitate to contact the law enforcement agency in your area. 

We will communicate to the church on this issue as we know more. 

Dr. Steven Ruff, Senior Pastor – FBC Perry

My Commitments for 2022

Today is the day – the first day of a brand-new year. It is a day many people anticipate. Some view today as the best day for watching college football (I am one of those). Some view today as simply a day off from work. Others view today as a chance for a new beginning. Those who view New Year’s Day as a new beginning will make resolutions to change old habits or start afresh. I don’t make resolutions. However, I believe in making commitments based on an honest evaluation of the past. With my family at the top of this list, I would like to share my commitments this year.

I plan to read smarter, so I may write better. If you are at least an occasional reader of my blog, you know I enjoy reading and writing. My plan this year is to focus and confine my reading to the areas of ministry and leadership. In 2022, I will choose quality over quantity. This smarter reading will sharpen my focus and contribute to more beneficial writing here.

I plan to say “no” to what pulls me away from my pastoral duties. I tend to say “yes” too often. As a result, I have found myself stretched thin and overloaded. I have been the pastor of First Baptist Church of Perry for almost four and half years. It is a great deal of work. The church I pastor deserves and needs my attention. Great things are ahead for the people of First Baptist in 2022. I cannot afford to be distracted.

I plan to be more focused on my preaching and teaching. Having looked back at my preaching and teaching this past year, I realize that, at times, it was scattered. My prayer is for the Lord to make me increasingly aware of the needs of my congregation, as well as the struggles and issues plaguing our city, state, and nation, and speak to them biblically and strategically. This focus will involve dedicated time away from my pastoral duties for sermon planning, vision development, and long-range planning. I cannot say how thankful I am that First Baptist Perry allows me two weeks a year for this study leave. 

I plan to spend more time with my pastoral staff this year. Today is the first New Year’s Day since my arrival at First Baptist in 2017 that we are not searching for a staff member. I am privileged to lead the largest pastoral team in my 23 years of gospel ministry. I desire to encourage and strengthen them in their areas of ministry, moving away from “I’m here if you need me” and toward “Let’s do ministry together.”

I plan to begin my book this year. For years, I have flirted with the idea of writing a book. Over the past five years, I have completed two large bodies of work. The first is a verse-by-verse exposition of the book of Ephesians, a requirement for my Doctor of Ministry degree. The second is a three-hour training conference outlining the principles of community ministry and engagement. Either of these could serve as the framework for my first book.

Why share these commitments publicly? Accountability. I hope throughout 2022, those who read my blog will ask me, “How are you doing in these areas?” What commitments have you made?

Sleeping Through Christmas

Today is Christmas. Much will happen today. Children will open gifts from under the tree that has taunted them for weeks. Families will gather today with those they have not seen in a very long time. Many will gather in houses of worship to celebrate the reason for the season. For the most part, the thoughts and focus of today will be on cultural traditions and not on the true meaning of why there is Christmas in the first place. We would not be the first ones to miss out on the reason for Christmas. In the Casting Crowns song, “While You Were Sleeping,” they write:

Oh little town of Bethlehem
Looks like another silent night
Above your deep and dreamless sleep
A giant star lights up the sky
And while you’re lying in the dark
There shines an everlasting light
For the King has left His throne
And is sleeping in a manger tonight
Oh Bethlehem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
For God became a man
And stepped into your world today
Oh Bethlehem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping
While you were sleeping

Bethlehem was physically sleeping. While the residents of Bethlehem slept, the Son of God was born into the world among them. While the residents of Bethlehem slept, the Savior of the world was born in a lowly stable with no fanfare, no attention, and no honor due a king. While the residents of Bethlehem slept, the landscape of the known world, and those to come, changed forever. The residents of Bethlehem secured a place for themselves in history as “a city with no room for its King.” They go on to write:

Oh little town of Jerusalem
Looks like another silent night
The Father gave His only Son
The Way, the Truth, the Life had come
But there was no room for Him in the world He came to save
Jerusalem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
The Savior of the world is dying on your cross today
Jerusalem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping
While you were sleeping

Jerusalem was spiritually sleeping. Thirty-plus years later, people were sleeping. This time, the residents of Jerusalem slept while the Son of God hung on a cross. The residents of Jerusalem slept while Jesus died for their sins. The residents of Jerusalem slept while the Messiah, the One the religious leaders were looking for and ought to have recognized, gave His life for the people who cried “Crucify Him.” He came as their writings and witnesses said He would. He walked among them. He performed miracles. He taught. He loved. He testified of an for the Father. He yielded. He died. All for this while, no one seemed to care. The residents of Jerusalem secured a place for themselves in history as “a city with no room for its King.” Before we take the residents of Bethlehem and Jerusalem to task on their failure to understand the mission and person of Jesus Christ, notice the words of Casting Crowns again:

United States of America
Looks like another silent night
As we’re sung to sleep by philosophies
That save the trees and kill the children
And while we’re lying in the dark
There’s a shout heard ‘cross the eastern sky
For the Bridegroom has returned
And has carried His bride away in the night
America, what will we miss while we are sleeping
Will Jesus come again
And leave us slumbering where we lay
America, will we go down in history
As a nation with no room for its King
Will we be sleeping
Will we be sleeping

As a nation, we are sleeping today. In the middle of the day, we’re sleeping. With the sun shining bright and eyes wide open, we’re sleeping. With the complete thoughts and mind God written for us that reveals our sin, points us to the cross, and calls us to die to self, we’re sleeping. Lullabies of tolerance, coexistence, and compromise rock a nation to sleep every night. Lullabies of “many paths to God,” “man is his own god,” and “feed what makes you feel good” enable a nation to sleep peacefully. Violence, hate, and greed are the most newsworthy items of our day. But, most troubling is that America seems to be sleeping well. What will it take to stir this nation from its sleep? What will happen to our nation if we continue to sleep? How long before God Himself says “that’s enough” and the Bridegroom splits the sky to receive His own? Will the residents of America secure for themselves a place in history as “a city with no room for its King”?

Today is Christmas. We are reminded of Luke’s words regarding this day. “Then the angel said to them, Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”.

False Theories of the Resurrection. Part #6: Why the Wrong Tomb Theory Comes Up Short

The Wrong Tomb Theory suggests that the women went to the wrong tomb in their grief and sorrow. Coming across an empty tomb, they left and falsely reported that Jesus had risen from the dead. This theory is disproven by the fact that the women were there at Jesus’ burial. Matthew wrote, “When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb (Matthew 27:59-61). It is hard to believe the women would so quickly forget Jesus’ burial place.

After they visited the empty tomb, the women quickly reported it to Peter and John, who were able to find the tomb, confirming the women correctly communicated its location. The most problematic piece of this theory is that if the women were wrong, the angel was as well. Upon arriving at the tomb, there was an earthquake, the stone was rolled away, and the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” (Matthew 28:5-6).

Speaking on the totality of the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, Geisler concluded:

In light of the evidence, here’s the question we should ask skeptics: ‘What happened in Jerusalem two thousand years ago that so changed the disciples that they were willing to die for their belief in the resurrection?’ The only answer can be that they saw the risen Lord. They did not have a mass hallucination. They weren’t part of some grand plot. They saw the living Jesus Christ following His death on the cross.

Norman Geisler, Reasons to Believe

False Theories of the Resurrection. Part #5: Why the Legend Theory Comes Up Short

Some critics argue that the resurrection of Jesus resulted from an accumulating legend, a position known today as the Legend Theory. After Jesus died, the story of His “resurrection” was exaggerated from person to person. The historical accounts of the resurrection and the writings associated with it (the gospels) do not fit within the style of most myths. Kreeft writes, “There are no overblown, spectacular, childishly exaggerated events. Nothing is arbitrary. Everything fits in. Everything is meaningful. The hand of a Master is at work here.”

The Gospels are different from the style of traditional myths. Instead of wildly exaggerated, overblown, and piecemeal claims, Jesus’ disciples believed, and Christians today believe, that all of Scripture is interconnected and interdependent. The amount of seemingly irrelevant detail surrounding the historical accounts of Jesus’ life and resurrection stands in opposition to the verbose style typical of myth. One such piece is found in John’s gospel. When confronted by the Pharisees with a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, Jesus was asked about a suitable punishment:

He stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’ And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

John 6:6-8, NKJV

Nothing more is said of this writing, and no detail is given of what was written. This detail of Jesus stooping to write in the dirt, although seemingly irrelevant, marks an eyewitness. The only explanation is that it happened. There was not enough time for a myth to develop. The Gospels were written within such a short time relative to the actual events that fabrication and elaboration would have been almost impossible due to the actual event’s eyewitnesses. Muller summarized this argument by saying:

One cannot imagine how such a series of legends could arise in an historical age, obtain universal respect, and supplant the historical recollection of the true character [Jesus]….if eyewitnesses were still at hand who could be questioned respecting the truth of the recorded marvels. Hence, legendary fiction, as it likes not the clear present time but prefers the mysterious gloom of gray antiquity, is wont to seek a remoteness of age, along with that of space, and to remove its boldest and most rare and wonderful creations into a very remote and unknown land (Muller 26).

Julius Muller, The Theory of Myths in Its Application to Gospel History Examined an Confuted

A significant detail in disproving the Legend Theory is that the first witnesses of the resurrection were women. In first-century Judaism, women possessed no legal right to serve as witnesses. If the empty tomb were a created legend, its creators would not have allowed multiple women to make the discovery since a woman’s testimony in that day was considered worthless. On the other hand, if the writers were reporting what they saw, they would have to tell the truth, regardless of the societal norms.

False Theories of the Resurrection. Part #4: Why the Conspiracy Theory Comes Up Short

The Conspiracy Theory holds that Jesus’ disciples stole His body and fabricated the lie of a resurrection, circulating it as truth. Conspiracy theorists hang their beliefs upon a conversation between the Jewish chief priests and the Roman guard. In the absence of a body, these officials, who both had a great deal to lose if Jesus did rise from the dead, needed to provide a plausible explanation. Matthew wrote of this conceived plan:

Now while they were on their way, behold, some of the guards came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ ‘And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.’ And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.

Matthew 28:11-15, NKJV

The basis for this theory is the telling of a lie. To better understand how this theory attempts to explain away Jesus’ resurrection, it’s helpful to know why people lie and how it stands up against the disciples’ actions. One tends to lie for the following reasons: to avoid painful consequences or shame, to gain a favorable result, to cause others to think positively, to get out of doing something, or to protect the feelings of another. 1 The disciples had no clear motive to make up such a lie. As previously stated, a person lies for apparent self-serving reasons. It was not to the disciples’ advantage to lie.

If the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body and made up the resurrection story, the consequences they faced as a result of that lie were indeed painful and shameful. They were scorned, hated, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, exiled, and beheaded for their belief in the resurrection (Kreeft 185). Men might die for a lie they wrongly believed, but it is impossible to think that one would willingly go to his death for a lie. Further, the disciples were not even expecting a resurrection; instead, they viewed death as final. The disciples were said to still “… not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead” (John 20:19). Further, James, the half-brother of Jesus, had not believed in Him until after the resurrection (John 7:5). On Sunday morning, when the women went to the tomb, they expected to anoint Jesus’ body, not to see a risen Lord. They expected to find everything as it was on Friday. Mark writes,

Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?

Mark 16:1-3

If the resurrection had been a lie on the disciples’ part, it is doubtful that they would have been able to get away with telling it in Jerusalem due to a large number of eyewitnesses. Speaking on the difficulty in sharing a lie so quickly after the actual events, William Lane Craig writes:

The Gospels were written in such temporal and geographical proximity to the events they record that it would have been almost impossible to fabricate events. … The fact that the disciples were able to proclaim the resurrection in Jerusalem in the face of their enemies a few weeks after the crucifixion shows that what they proclaimed was true, for they could never have proclaimed the resurrection (and been believed) under such circumstances had it not occurred.

William Lane Craig

The character of the disciples argues against such a conspiracy on their part. Among the disciples, there was no dispute in what they believed. Jesus’ disciples were honest and ordinary peasants, not cunning and deceitful lawyers. The change in their lives was from fear to faith, despair to confidence, and cowardice to boldness. It is improbable that twelve poor, fearful, and uneducated tradespeople confronted and confused the powerful Roman world with their lie. The likelihood of these timid disciples stealing the body of Jesus out from under the noses of highly disciplined and skilled Roman soldiers while they all slept (an offense punishable by death) is challenging to accept. The effects of the disciples’ faith in the resurrection are apparent:

In the midst of the tyranny of the persecutors, an innumerable throng of people, both simple and learned, flocked to the Christian faith. In this faith there are truths proclaimed that surpass every human intellect; the pleasures of the flesh are curbed; it is taught that the things of the world should be spurned. Now, for the minds of mortal men to assent to these things is the greatest of miracles. … This wonderful conversion of the world to the Christian faith is the clearest witness. … For it would be truly more wonderful than all signs if the world had been led by simple and humble men to believe such lofty truths, to accomplish such difficult actions, and to have such high hopes.

Peter Kreeft, Handbook of Christian Apologetics

If there had been a conspiracy and the resurrection was a lie, the Jews needed only to produce the corpse to bring closure to the matter. It would have been in their best interest to do so. They needed Jesus to be dead. Producing His corpse would put to rest the resurrection claim and any thought that Jesus was, in fact, the Son of God. It would have been in the best interest of the Romans if Jesus were dead, for the reputation of the Roman Empire would have been called into question if anyone had made their way past the guards and broke the seal on the tomb. They, also, had only to produce the corpse to put the conspiracy to rest. Geisler succinctly states the likelihood of such a conspiracy:

This hypothesis, if true, would make out the disciples to be most pious frauds that ever lived. We would have to believe, contrary to psychological fact, that they died for what they knew to be false, and that they were transformed from cowards to courageous men in a few weeks by a deceptive plot that enabled them to turn the known world upside down. It is hardly more miraculous to believe in the resurrection itself than to believe this highly unlikely hypothesis.

Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics

1 Lickerman, Alex, M.D. “Why We Lie.” Psychology Today. 8 Mar. 2010. Web. 06 Feb. 2016.

False Theories of the Resurrection. Part #3: Why the Hallucination Theory Comes Up Short

The Hallucination Theory asserts that the disciples and other followers were so emotionally involved with Jesus that they only had a hallucination of Him rising from the dead. This theory further holds that Christ’s post-resurrection appearances were only supposed appearances. 

As a result, the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ are dismissible. The Hallucination Theory misses the mark as a suitable alternative to Jesus’ resurrection as it fails to adequately handle matters such as the number of witness accounts, medical truths related to hallucinations, and the lack of explanation of other resurrection facts. 

 The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus were numerous and took place in different locations lasting for varying amounts of time. Jesus appeared “when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19) and “showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). Mary Magdalene, supposing Jesus to be a gardener, was confronted with the reality of the risen Lord after arriving at the tomb early Sunday morning. He told her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God” (John 20:17). She then went and told the disciples what He had told her. 

 The disciples were not the only ones on record as having seen the risen Christ. The Apostle Paul records in 1 Corinthians 15 that Christ was “…seen by James, then by all the apostles” (v.7), and separately “…last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (v.8). Paul discloses that many of those to whom Christ had personally appeared were still alive, which presented a challenge to his readers to verify their claims. The appearances of Christ lasted too long for them to be a hallucination. Hallucinations usually last for seconds or minutes, rarely for hours. 1 Luke records one such extended appearance, “He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Likely the greatest challenge to the Hallucination Theory is the fact that Jesus appeared to “more than five hundred brethren at once” (1 Corinthians 15:6). Clinical psychologists suggest that the most formidable obstacle for the hallucination theory to overcome is its failure to explain appearances to groups of people:

I have surveyed the professional literature (peer-reviewed journal articles and books) written by psychologists, psychiatrists, and other relevant healthcare professionals during the past two decades and have yet to find a single documented case of a group hallucination, that is, an event for which more than one person purportedly shared in a visual or other sensory perception where there was clearly no external referent.  

William Dembski, Evidence for God; 50 Arguments for Faith From the Bible

Psychologist Gary Collins was no less clear when he remarked:

Hallucinations are individual occurrences. By their very nature, only one person can see a given hallucination at a time. They certainly aren’t something which can be seen by a group of people. Neither is it possible that one person could somehow induce a hallucination in somebody else. Since a hallucination exists only in this subjective, personal sense, it is obvious that others cannot witness it. And yet, Jesus not only appeared to numerous individuals but to groups, as well—and on numerous occasions.

Dr. Gary Collins, Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: Hallucination

A hallucination may explain only the post-resurrection appearances; it does not explain the empty tomb, the rolled away stone, and Roman and Jewish officials’ inability to produce the body of Jesus Christ. Writing on the certainty of the resurrection, C.S. Lewis offered:

Any theory of hallucination breaks down on the fact (and if it is invention [rather than fact], it is the oddest invention hat ever entered the mind of man) that on three separate occasions this hallucination was not immediately recognized as Jesus. Even granting that God sent a holy hallucination to teach truths already widely believed without it, and far more easily taught by other methods, and certain to be completely obscured by this, might we not at least hope that He would get the face of the hallucination right? Is He who made all faces such a bungler that He cannot even work up a recognizable likeness of the Man who was Himself?

Peter Kreeft, Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions

1 Kreeft, Peter, and Ronald K. Tacelli. Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers  to Crucial Questions. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994. Print.

False Theories of the Resurrection. Part #2: Why the Swoon Theory Comes Up Short

The Swoon Theory, first proposed in 1828 by naturalist H.E.G Paulus in his work, The Life of Jesus, supposed Jesus Christ did not die on the cross. 1 Instead, proponents believe that He swooned (fainted), was placed in a borrowed tomb in an unconscious state, and was later revived inside the cold, dark tomb. This theory resurfaced in the mid-twentieth century through the writings of two scholars. In The Passover Plot, Hugh Schonfield alleged that Joseph of Arimathea arranged for an unidentified man to give Jesus a drugged drink. As a result, He slipped into a state of unconsciousness, only appearing to be dead. His body was removed from the tomb on Saturday, and He later regained consciousness. He asked the unidentified man to tell His disciples that He had risen, and later died and was reburied. 2 

       In The Jesus Scroll, Donavan Joyce similarly alleged that Jesus had been drugged before His crucifixion. Joyce believed that the Roman soldiers had been bribed and therefore did not examine Jesus’ body closely to ensure His death. As a result, Jesus did not die on the cross. According to Joyce, Jesus was resuscitated in the tomb by a doctor hidden inside the tomb beforehand. 3  The Swoon Theory has serious failing when it comes to an alternate explanation of Jesus’ resurrection. Strong evidence exists that Jesus experienced an actual physical death. The injuries Jesus sustained on the cross, including scourging, made death unavoidable as the nature of crucifixion assured a painful death. 

The scourging produced deep stripe-like lacerations and appreciable blood loss, and it probably set the stage for hypovolemic shock, as evidenced by the fact that Jesus was too weakened to carry the crossbar to Golgotha” (Edwards 1455-63). This overture to the crucifixion alone would have been grueling and life-draining. 

William Edwards, “On the Physical Death of Jesus,” Journal of the American Medical Association – March 21, 1986.

       Jesus hung on the cross from the “third hour” (Mark 15:22) until the “sixth hour” (Mark 15:33), just before sunset. He bled from gashes in his hands and feet and from the thorns that pierced his scalp. These wounds would have drained away much blood over this time. Besides, crucifixion demands that the condemned constantly pull their bodies up by their hands and push off their injured feet to breathe. “Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross.” 4  

       In addition to the medical facts that attest to Jesus’ death, burial customs of the day aid in disproving the Swoon Theory. Once death was established, the corpse was washed, anointed, and wrapped in linen cloths with spices enclosed (John 19:40). The deceased’s arms and legs were tightly bound, and the head covered with a separate piece of fabric. Jesus lay in a tomb with a large stone, likely exceeding one thousand pounds, rolled in front to seal off the entrance (The King James Version Study Bible 1529). The closing off of the tomb was an involved process:

Immediately in front of the doorway (the top of which is more than a foot below the floor of the porch) is a deep trench, commencing a foot or two west of the door, and extending three or four yards along the wall eastward. The bottom of this trench is a short distance below the sill of the door, and is probably an inclined plane. Along this channel a large thick stone disc traverses, fitting very accurately against its western end, which is made concave, to be exactly conformed to the convexity of this large millstone-like disc when rolled to that end—thus closing the doorway most effectively.

James Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible

If it were somehow possible for Jesus to survive Roman crucifixion, the heavy stone in the tomb’s entrance presented a severe obstacle. In His weakened condition, Jesus would have had to move an object that would prove difficult for a healthy man to move, remembering that the stone had to roll uphill. All of this demonstrates that a swoon theory cannot account for the biblical and medical facts of Jesus’ death and resurrection. 5

1 Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Reference Library,  1999. Print.

2 Habermas, Gary R. The Verdict of History; Conclusive Evidence for the Life of Jesus. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988. Print.

3 Ibid.

4 Edwards, William D., Gabel, Wesley J. “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” Journal of the American Medical Association; 255, no. 11, (March 21, 1986), 1455-63.

5 Habermas, Gary R. The Verdict of History; Conclusive Evidence for the Life of Jesus. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988. Print.

False Theories of the Resurrection. Part #1: An Introduction

As corroborated by the scriptural record, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a foundational principle of Christian faith and doctrine. As the son of God and savior of humanity, Christ’s identity and mission stand on the historical accuracy of His bodily resurrection. 1 For the Apostle Paul, the resurrection is the pivotal event in human history. If it is, in fact, true, the resurrection validates and fulfills the earthly teaching of Jesus Christ. If it not true, however, Christianity as a whole may be dismissed as a false religion. Paul acknowledged the importance and necessity of the resurrection in his writings to the Corinthian church:

And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up–if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

1 Corinthians 15:14-17, NKJV

To gain the most straightforward understanding of Christ’s resurrection and the alternative explanations, it is necessary to understand what is meant by resurrection. Three terms are often confused: resuscitation, reincarnation, and resurrection. When a person experiences a resuscitation, he returns as the same person in the same body and will inevitably die and be buried. Afterward, the same person does not return. Those who believe in reincarnation hold that when a person dies, he comes back as a different person in a different body. The belief is that a person comes back repeatedly, each time in a different body that will eventually die. In a resurrection, the person who died returns to the same body- only this body will never face and experience death again. 2

Paul cited the resurrection of Jesus Christ as proof of His deity. He wrote, “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:3-4). Paul’s linkage of Jesus’ resurrection to His deity offered essentially two choices:

It is the resurrection that sets him apart and authenticates his claim to deity. Had Jesus not risen from the dead, he would be remembered today only as a Jewish moralist who had some inflated ideas about his own relationship to God and made a number of ridiculous demands on those who wanted to be his disciples. On the other hand, if it is true that he rose from the dead, then his teachings about himself are true and his requirements for discipleship must be taken with all seriousness.

Robert Mounce

For Paul, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a guarantee of the believer’s resurrection. He shared with the church at Corinth the connection between the two:

For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

1 Corinthians 15:16-20

Centuries have passed since Christ’s resurrection, and several arguments have emerged that offer alternate theories to the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are five common theories. The Swoon Theory holds that Jesus fainted and then resuscitated. The Hallucination Theory advances the belief the disciples only thought they saw Jesus alive. The Conspiracy Theory holds the disciples stole the body of Jesus and then claimed a bodily resurrection. The resurrection was a made-up story forms basis of the Legend Theory. The Wrong-Tomb Theory is straightforward- the disciples went to the wrong tomb on that Sunday morning.

I will break down these alternative theories over the next five days.

1 Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible 1988.

2 Geisler, Norman L. Reasons for Belief; Easy to Understand Answers to 10 Essential Questions. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2013.